Volunteer with Big Cats
African Wildlife Orphanage gave me everything I wanted out of this experience. It’s a haven for all animals and it truly deserves to be applauded. The amount of work they do to help animals in need is extraordinary. No animal was ever turned down, no appointments had to be made, it was as simple as just dropping them off. I’ve seen anywhere from a plover to a steenbok to an owl to a snake come through the doors of Chipangali.
I dug a pond for the lions and prepared food for all the carnivores. I loved feeding the servals, especially since they were very friendly and gave plenty of kisses. I witnessed two lamb births and got to spend lots of time with the newborn lambs. I would go into the enclosure every night to kiss them goodnight.
The whole experience was humbling, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get up close and personal with all sorts of animals but more importantly to me it helped me learn and understand the troubles that animals are faced with and what this particular organisation is doing to protect endangered species such as the cheetah. I have a lot of fond memories of the people who I worked with and the animals I was fortunate enough to get to know and those memories will never fade.
Typical days at the African Wildlife Ranch aren’t typical at all. Each day provided for a new opportunity to help improve the lives of the animals at the ranch. Whether it was assisting with cleaning enclosures each morning, preparing food for various animals, providing enrichment to one of the many wonderful animals, building and preparing enrichment opportunities or assisting with project work, there was always something new to keep you focused on.
During my time in South Africa I gained such a wide array of experience that would have never been possible at home. I participated in several game counts, tested cows and sheep for fertility, treated horses and mules in the area of Coffee Bay, and experienced both a net and helicopter capture.
The first day of the plain count I remember looking over the list of the 30 or so wild animals. I thought, “Yea right, like we are really going to see all these? I doubt it!” Then I thought, “How am I supposed to count something I have never heard of before in my entire life?” Each creature was pointed out and explained in vivid detail to us. I had seen more beautiful creatures on that day than I had ever seen in any zoo anywhere. And I have been to quite a lot of zoos in my life. I was shocked, excited and ready for more.
The sights are of course the thing I will always remember, but there was something that was even more important, the sense of community. It was a project for the animals, but we always worked with people. For me, that was the biggest surprise, all the great people I met there.The staff members were amazing and they were like the other volunteers just great and we all became such fast friends.
My involvement allowed me to avoid being the one-dimensional tourist, but rather to provide meaningful work in the further advancement of research done on the wildlife in Africa. Seeing and working with these beautiful animals has been eye-opening, especially the black and white rhinos. The next 5 years will be critical for the survival of these magnificent creatures. Conservation becomes vital for the survival of the rhino as well as all the species that live in a very unpredictable part of the world.
My two weeks at the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary were the best and happiest days of my life. I learned so much. Kevin and his team sacrifice so much just to make these animals lives the best possible. It really is true, once you leave the sanctuary and Africa, you are a changed person. You won’t look at life the same. I have so many wonderful memories that can never be taken from me.
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